A Republican FCC hopes to revamp the infamous “Obamaphone” program to provide low-income Americans phone and internet service.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai already put the program, known as Lifeline, under review. He revoked nine providers from participating the program, saying that they need further review.
Chairman Ajit Pai and Republicans in Congress argue that the program needs reform, including setting a limited budget of $1.5 billion to cut waste and abuse within the program. Pai said, “A budget induces careful spending.”
Previous bills in Congress have capped the budget at $1.5 billion.
Pai and fellow Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly support the idea. House Energy and Commerce telecommunications subcommittee Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn wrote in an op-ed with O’Reilly, “The program must be better targeted to eligible low-income individuals who would not otherwise sign up for service.”
Not only does the FCC want to provide better service to every American, but Pai also wants to curtail waste, fraud, abuse in the Obamaphone program.
Ajit Pai has been a vocal critic of the Lifeline program, even accusing other FCC Commissioners of trying to keep a $51 million fraud investigation quiet.
Pai’s Obamaphone reform also coincides with his drive to improve transparency at the FCC. He plans to have the FCC’s agenda for public comment before agency votes on new regulations.
Chairman Pai’s scrutiny over the Lifeline program has sparked controversy, with many publications arguing that he curtailed low-income Americans’ access to affordable phone service. However, Pai contends that his reforms only affected 1% of Lifeline providers. Chairman Pai says he hopes to help all Americans get affordable access to phone and internet service.
On Medium, he said, “At the end of the day, my focus has been — and will continue to be so long as I have the privilege of serving as the Chairman of the FCC — doing everything within the FCC’s power to close the digital divide.”